MLB

Opinion: COVID-19, wildfires force Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners to reckon with our contemporary woes

It wasn’t a doubleheader the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics staged on Monday as much as it was a reckoning, one crisis forcing the teams to meet up on what was supposed to be a day off, and another practically choking them out when they did.

This 60-game Major League Baseball season saddles teams with a series of false choices, leaving them throwing a dart and hoping for the best outcomes.

Monday’s decision was particularly grim: Choke on fumes now, or suck wind later?

The A’s and Mariners schlepping to Seattle on an off day resulted from a positive COVID-19 test among Oakland’s traveling party at the end of August, postponing the A’s final game in Houston and a three-game set with Seattle while contact tracing and testing occurred.

Making up two of the games on a mutual off day in Seattle was a no-brainer. What they faced upon arrival was anything but.

Since this doubleheader was scheduled, wildfires have continued ravaging the entire West Coast, with the Pacific Northwest burning at a rate more typically associated with its neighbors to the south.

By the time the teams settled in for the 2:10 p.m. PT start of the twinbill, 13 large fires in Washington had consumed nearly 700,000 acres, according to the Bureau of Land Management. T-Mobile Park has a roof, which was closed, but the entire venue is not enclosed.

A view inside T-Mobile Park during Game 1 of a doubleheader between the A's and Mariners. (Photo: Joe Nicholson, USA TODAY Sports)

The white haze that settled in the stadium has become de rigueur for West Coast games in the days since the wildfires torched 10 states. Yet this day would feature an alarming underlying condition.

The Air Quality Index around T-Mobile Park was well north of 200 by the time the game began. If you’ve spent the past few months wrapping your arms around rolling seven-day averages of positive tests, hospitalization and mortality rates, well, we can relate. A quick refresher on air quality, per the EPA:

Anything from 0 to 50 is good, and 51 to 100 is acceptable. Anything from 101 to 200 can affect those sensitive to poor air quality and, at the higher end, the general public.

An AQI north of 200? That is considered a health alert, in which “the risks of health effects is increased for everyone.”

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